David Wallace-Wells: ‘There are many cases of climate hypocrisy’

(The Guardian, 25 Aug 2019) The journalist and author on the climate crisis and how the US and China will be key to averting disaster.

David Wallace-Wells is the deputy editor of New York magazine. In July 2017, he wrote a long-form essay about the dire prospects for human civilisation caused by the climate crisis. It became the most read article in the history of the magazine and led to a book, The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future, which is being published in paperback in September.

The first line of your book states: “It is worse, much worse, than you think.” If you were sitting down to write the book again, would you be inserting another “much” into that sentence?
I still think the public aren’t as concerned as they should be about some of the scary stuff that’s possible this century. But I do think things have changed quite a bit. And I also think the politics have changed quite a lot. When I turned in the book in September, nobody had heard of Greta Thunberg. Nobody had heard of Extinction Rebellion. In the US, very few people had heard of Sunrise. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had not even been elected.

In the United States, you have a climate crisis denier as president, yet areas of the country are experiencing frequent flooding, more forest fires and rises in average temperature of more than 2C. How do you explain this?
Actually, it’s quite striking how many Americans do believe climate change is happening. [Democratic presidential nominee] Jay Inslee says 75% of voters want action, compared with 63% 12 months ago – that is remarkable. There was a piece earlier this month in the New York Times about how for many young Republicans, it is their top issue.

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The Guardian, 25 Aug 2019: David Wallace-Wells: ‘There are many cases of climate hypocrisy’